I move amendment No. 1:
In page 3, between lines 19 and 20, to insert the following definition:
" 'tertiary roads' includes roads in housing estates taken in charge by a local authority.".
I spoke about this on Second Stage and I do not propose to repeat ad nauseam what I said then. The biggest problem we have with the roads is the inability of local authorities to maintain and upgrade them, mainly in urban housing estates. These were roads built for the most part by the developers of the estates. In many cases, and here I am going back 25 to 30 years and estates of that age, the standard of road building was very poor, to put it mildly. As a result of the traffic using these roads and the amount of work done on them - digging them up for gas pipes and telephone cables - many of the roads have fallen apart over the years. The irony is that these are the first roads to be used by those paying the motor tax, which goes into the fund for the upkeep of roads and their maintenance by local authorities.
My experience in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, which is something Deputy Mitchell referred to on Second Stage and will probably refer to again, is that one goes to the county council about a road which is literally falling apart and has not been resurfaced or maintained properly for a very long time. Footpaths on the same road will be in a dangerous state and elderly people keep telling me they are terrified to use such footpaths because of the potential danger of tripping and so on. The local authority will tell you it cannot do anything because the tertiary road grant is not big enough to fix these roads. As I understand it, a grant is made available by the Minister from the surplus money generated in the local government fund about mid-year or towards the beginning of autumn. The amounts of those grants are tiny. Last year the local authority of which I am a member received £100,000 from that fund. Every Member knows the cost of repairing and resurfacing roads; £100,000 will do little or nothing. My purpose in putting down this amendment is to focus attention on the problem and I hope the Minister will respond positively to it. There should be an enhanced allocation for theseroads.
My second reason is that while this Bill is primarily about increasing the level of motor taxation it is also about the local government fund. As that is the fund from which road allocations are made, it seems to me the way in which that money is allocated does not take account of the volume of traffic and use. I appreciate there can be a great deal of disagreement as to what basis can be used for allocating roads money, whether it should be on a per kilometre basis or otherwise.
The difficulty with the per kilometre basis is that it takes no account of the level of usage. Roads in a housing estate used by a large number of cars, public transport vehicles and other heavy vehicles such as refuse trucks, just do not stand up to that and they need urgent attention. I do not object to the level of increase proposed here, it is fairly modest, but if we are increasing taxation and telling motorists their money is to go to a local government fund to be used to repair and maintain the roads, among other things, then we are not far off the day when motorists will seriously question what they are paying their motor tax for if local authorities cannot maintain roads outside their own houses and areas in some kind of reasonable condition.